Dubrovnik is a tourist’s delight. From its stunning beaches, impressive city walls and the range of accommodation, tours and restaurants, you can’t go wrong with this destination. There is an indescribable beauty to this city that has to be seen to be believed. Lucky for you readers and wanderlusters out there, we will try to bring some of Dubrovnik to you! Here’s how we fell in love with Dubrovnik.
I will be honest, I had not really put a whole lot of thought into planning our visit to Dubrovnik (and Croatia in general). It was just one of those destinations that I had on my bucket list as it sounded slightly more exotic than the usual European tourist destinations. Oh, and that it was also a primary filming location for my favourite TV and book series. NB: If you have to ask, you haven’t been following this blog or our other social media accounts (so start reading!) :p
Having just spent a wonderful three days in Split, I didn’t expect Dubrovnik to top it. I mean, Split was such a beautiful port city, with outstanding preserved 4th century buildings and nearby islands, how is it possible to beat that? Even when we were in the taxi driving to Old Town, and our taxi driver was saying “Split is lovely, but Dubrovnik is better”, I didn’t really believe him. But from the moment we pulled up to the Buža Gate, I started to have second thoughts. What can I say, I’m a sucker for historical towns, and even more so when beaches are involved.
There is quite a lot you can see and do in Dubrovnik. In fact, we did not have nearly enough time to see everything, and I have therefore put Dubrovnik (and Croatia in general) back on our travel bucket list to go back to some day. But without further adieu, here are some of the fantastic things you can see and do with limited time (and may lead you to fall in love with Dubrovnik like we did!). Like the rest of Croatia, they use the Croatian Kuna, however some places will take Euros.
Soak up some sun
One thing that amazed us about Dubrovnik was how clear the water was. The beaches are spectacular and some of the best we swam in during our time in Europe (although we still believe Spain has the winning beaches of Europe!). The water temperature was just right and with a clarity and colour one normally dreams about. As soon as our toes touched the water, we were in love. Sure the beaches can be a little pebbly, but honestly, if you are after pristine white sandy beaches, you are on the wrong continent (go to Australia!). There were daybeds for hire if you are a little prone to ‘Princess and the Pea’ syndrome (where you will feel every bump under your towel), and the hire charge was so much cheaper than other countries in Europe (I think we paid the equivalent of €15 for two day beds and an umbrella, without any time limit). For our favourite piece of paradise, head to Sveti Jakov beach, about a 30 minute walk from old town. With restrooms, a café and beach bar, it’s easy to spend the whole day there.
Walk the wall
The wall surrounding the old town of Dubrovnik are an impressive monument in itself. Originally built in the 7th century, they have been modified and strengthened throughout the centuries and have surprisingly stood against the test of time and the many conflicts it has faced. These walls surround and protect the old town, running 1,940 metres in length and up to 25 metres high. It is no wonder this monument (along with the old city of Dubrovnik) is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Take a walk along the wall and admire the city and sea from different angles.
While you are in the old town, wander through the tiny streets, learn to love all of the stairs (as there are many!) and immerse yourself in the history of this breathtaking city. There are plenty of wonderful sites to visit whilst in the old town, including the Cathedral, Pile Gate and Rector’s Palace.
NB: A great local tip is to head to the walls after 5:30pm, so you miss the onslaught of tourists from the daily cruise boat rush.
Cost: To walk on the walls is 100HRK / 30HRK
Speaking of views…
Head up to Mount Srdj for breathtaking views of the old town and beyond. If you are feeling strenuous, you can walk up to the top, or if you prefer to take the easier option, you can drive or take the cable car. The cable car departs from Ploce, just outside the Buža Gate at the top of old town. But views aren’t the only thing on offer atop the hill. For history buffs, you can visit the Imperial Fortress and the Museum of the Croatian War of Independence. There is also a restaurant and a bar where you can soak up the gorgeous views.
Cost: Cable car tickets are One Way: 60 / 30HRK Return: 108 / 50 HRK Museum tickets: 20 / 10 HRK
Kayaking Tour & visit to Lokrum Island
If you are anything like us, you eat your way around a destination. So with that in mind, a great way to enjoy the gorgeous Adriatic sea, and work off some of those delicious meals, is by kayaking. There are plenty of companies offering sea kayaking tours and we went with Adventure Dubrovnik, as they offered a few options, one being a visit of Lokrum Island.
I’m a sucker for urban legends, and Lokrum Island doesn’t disappoint. A Benedictine monastery was founded and built on the island back in 1023ad. The monks lived there until 1808, when a French army general exiled them off the island and ordered the closure of the monastery. Rather than conveying the message himself, he sent three aristocrats to deliver the message. The monks were outraged and did all they could to stop the closure and stay on Lokrum. Upon realising that all their efforts to stay had failed, they decided to curse the island. After their last mass on the island, they donned their hooded cloaks and walked around the island in a long single file procession, holding candles upside-down so the wax would drip along their path. They circumnavigated the island three times, chanting the curse against anyone who acquires Lokrum for their own personal pleasure. At dawn, they got on their boats and left the island, never to return.
At this point you may think that there’s nothing to it. What’s some dripped candle wax and chanted words, right? Wrong. The curse seemingly took effect on the three aristocrats who delivered the message. One died from jumping out of a window, one drowned on his way to Lokrum and the other was killed by a servant. Bankruptcy, dethroning, murder, drownings, suicide and even insanity have affected the owners of Lokrum Island. The most notable one is of archduke Maximilian (later known as the Emperor of Mexico) and his wife Princess Charlotte of Belgium. They bought the island as a haven and summer home. There, they built a mansion and established beautiful botanical gardens with peacocks to happily spend their days and escape the pressures of aristocratic life.
Sadly this happiness came to an end when he left for Mexico and became emperor there in 1864. Three years later, he was taken prisoner and executed by rebels and his wife Charlotte eventually went insane. The island is now uninhabited and it is actually illegal to stay overnight on the island. In fact, when they were filming Season 2 of Game of Thrones (it was the location for parts of Qarth), the cast and crew would have to pack up and leave the island on the last ferry each day and return bright and early the next morning. Is it due to conserving the beautiful surroundings, or to avoid having more victims to the curse? Ponder that…
Whether you believe the superstitions or not, a visit to Lokrum Island is a great excursion from Dubrovnik. Wander through the remains of the monastery, admire the beautiful gardens that feature plants from all over the world (including Eucalyptus trees from Australia!) and make friends with the many peacocks that inhabit the island. You can also swim in the ‘mini Dead Sea’ (a salt water lake linked to the sea), go snorkelling in the crystal clear waters and for the adventurous confident types, there are also nudist beaches to even up your tan lines. Going by kayak took a lot longer than the ferry, but was an enjoyable way to get there, whilst enjoying a workout and the beautiful surroundings of the coastline.
Cost: 350HRK (approx. €45) for the long tour (including lunch and time on Lokrum island) or 230HRK for the shorter tour (where you probably get more swimming time in)
There is a fast 15-minute ferry to Lokrum, which runs half-hourly during summer (and less frequently outside summer) from Dubrovnik’s old harbour. Cost is 40HRK
(Game of Thrones) Walking Tour
The best way to see a city if you are on limited time, is by doing a walking tour. Most large cities offer free or cheap walking tours that last for a couple of hours and show you some of the main sights whilst offering up some history and interesting facts. As I am, admittedly, obsessed with Game of Thrones, we opted to see Dubrovnik by tracing the many paths of some of our favourite (and not-so-favourite) characters from the hit series.
Over two hours, we were taken on a grand walk through the old city of Dubrovnik, stopping at key areas where scenes were filmed (with handy pictures from the show to jog anyone’s memory) and given facts about the city and also behind the scenes titbits from Game of Thrones. Our guide even diligently dressed up as a knight for the tour (which would have been awful, considering how hot it was!).
Cost: €24pp (other tours have different prices. Check the website for more info)
Tick off your GoT list
So my obsession with Game of Thrones was certainly fed during my visit to Croatia. Dubrovnik is one of the main filming locations for Kings Landing and Qarth. If you are as obsessed with the show as I am, walk through the old town and along the city walls and see what scenes you can recognise from the hit show (let me assure you, there are plenty).
Hotel Belvedere is one notable area for Game of Thrones where Oberyn fought The Mountain. Besides its feature in the show, it has an interesting story behind it. In the 1991 war, 5-star Hotel Belvedere served as a defensive point of Dubrovnik. Sadly it was bombed, shot at and abandoned. Nowadays it is in ruins and closed off. Unbeknownst to us when we explored it, it was purchased by a Russian billionaire in 2014 for approximately €12 million. Apparently it will cost an additional €80 million to restore it. I can’t wait to see the end result once it’s finished. It certainly has the million dollar views…
Go country hopping
If you find yourself with too much time in Dubrovnik (is that even a thing???) you can visit the countries nearby, as they are only a short drive away. I may have accidentally left my passport in Split and only realised AFTER arriving into Dubrovnik (luckily we went by ferry and didn’t require to show it upon entry). Because of this, we sadly couldn’t do any of the day trips to Bosnia or Montenegro. However, if you are not as absent-minded as myself and find you’ve seen everything Dubrovnik has to offer, you can take up the many day trips on offer. They are reasonably cheap and you’ll find agencies throughout the old town selling them. Next time we visit Croatia, we’ll definitely have to go on a few of these. Alternatively, you can hire a car and do it yourself, just make sure you have your passport and travel insurance. NB: Do not leave your passport behind anywhere! It is a semi stressful experience! Thankfully it was only left with our travel agent in Split, who organised to get it to me asap!
You won’t need to search far for delicious food. Being a touristic city, there are PLENTY of restaurants and cafes in the old town. We enjoyed a delicious lasagna from Pizzeria Petica, brunch with views at Dubravka 1836 and on our last night, I couldn’t resist Game of Thrones lamb shanks from Café Royal. Like I said, there is plenty on offer, with views, live music and delicious food. Take your pick, soak up the romantic atmosphere and enjoy!
Where to stay?
We stayed within the Old Town and cannot recommend it enough. It is convenient and how can you resist staying in Kings Landing? :p Check out booking.com for listings.
Have you been to Dubrovnik? What did you like the most? Comment below!